May 19, 2024
  • May 19, 2024

Victoria Highlanders Pull Out of League1 BC, Canadian Championship

By on April 9, 2024 0 3907 Views

Despite being in the final stretch prior to the 2024 Canadian soccer season, the Victoria Highlanders announced Monday that they are ceasing all operations related to League1 BC and are withdrawing from the 2024 Canadian Championship effective immediately.

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“Despite our best efforts over the past two months we have been unable to reach an agreement with the new owners of League1 BC that would allow us to carry on the Victoria Highlanders and still maintain our mission of providing a volunteer driven, not-for-profit community team for women and men looking to take their next step in soccer,” read a press release from the club.

In the same statement, the club proceeded to thank their fans, staff, volunteers, sponsors, partners, coaches, and players., with the club highlighting the work of the volunteer head coaches Steve Simonson and Neil Sedgewick, saying that “without their significant contributions, the club’s League1BC seasons would not have been possible.”

Coming as a shock to many in the Canadian sporting world, this news also comes with just over two weeks before the 2024 League1 BC season kicks off with the Highlanders hosting the TSS Rovers on April 24th.

Photo Credit: Tom Ewasiuk

Their simultaneous withdrawal from the first round of Canadian Championship now leaves their opponents, fellow Van Islanders Pacific FC, without a confirmed match-up on May 1st.

However, a trusted source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to Northern Tribune that there are contingencies in place to ensure that League1 BC will still be represented in Canadian Championship, with the spot expected to go to the next best team in the 2023 regular season, the TSS Rovers.

When Northern Tribune reached out to the Burnaby-based TSS Rovers for comment, none was provided by the club, though discussions about the possible cup move were confirmed to be ongoing.

Exemplifying the sentiment surely felt by many Highlanders fans, the club’s star forward Michael Henman took to his Instagram story following the announcement to voice his displeasure.

“Shame on you, CSB. The berth in the Canadian Championship that we fought for and earned and the chance to play with friends in my hometown, you made not possible for a little extra cash. Spineless.”

These allegations come in light of Canadian Soccer Business’ acquisition of League1 BC into its League1 Canada umbrella last December as the merger brought a slew of new realities and investment dollars into the provincial league, but also brought with it some restrictions as well. For example, due to the organization’s current partnerships that span four leagues including the country’s premier flight in the Canadian Premier League, there exist limitations on sponsorships and corporate investment across the table.

These restrictions were on full display during the negotiations leading up to TFC Academy’s return to League1 Ontario as TFC’s premier sponsor, BMO, is a direct competitor to a leading CSB sponsor, CIBC. Our sources did not comment on whether these restrictions directly led to the Highlanders ceasing operations.

Photo Credit: Tom Ewasiuk

The Victoria Highlanders rose like a phoenix during the 2023 League1 BC season. Kicking off their league debut in 2022 with a mediocre performance, the club took the eight-team league by storm in 2023 with a strong 10W-2D-2L showing in the men’s competition.

It would come down to the final match of the season against the TSS Rovers to determine the regular season champions and, in turn, the club to represent the provincial pro-am league at the Canadian Championship. Ultimately, it would be David Schaefer who would play the hero in the ’93 to put the Highlanders up 3-2 over the Rovers and claiming the title.

The club has announced that its Division 1 men’s team and Residency program will continue under the the Highlanders name. League1 BC has yet to announce whether another club will be chosen to fill the now-vacant eighth spot in the league table as of the time of writing.

This is a developing story. More to come…

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